Something happened last week that I’m not proud of. Maybe I’m overreacting. I just like things done a certain way, set high expectations for myself, and am, undoubtedly, my worst critic. I’m a perfectionist. I thought that was a good thing. Now, I’m not so sure. [Read more…] about What Happens When You Rush…
In my early twenties, I realized I wanted to be a writer. Not a writer who wrote just for the love of it. A writer — a bestselling author whose books inspire and stay with readers long after they put them down. And even though I’d been honest with myself and acknowledged my dream, I acted like someone who was ashamed of it. Who was I to want to be a writer? What did I have to say? And would people care or listen? That was the doubt speaking. And while I did write, I approached it half-heartedly, still believing that it was nothing but a silly dream. I suffered from the One Day Syndrome. “One day,” became my mantra. “One day I’ll make my dream come true.” [Read more…] about The ‘One Day’ Syndrome
A couple of weeks ago, I received my editor’s critique of my latest manuscript. I’d been waiting for it, eager to get this particular book project moving again. As I digested all the comments — good and bad — I stalled. I didn’t know where or how to begin. Then I started second-guessing myself, that maybe this wasn’t as good of a story as I thought it was. Would anyone be interested in reading it? Then I hit rock bottom and thought … maybe, I should chuck it all.
I’d let the drama from the page spill over into life. Taking a step back, I realized my editor was doing his job. As always, he hit on all the big-ticket items — character and plot development, structure, continuity, story arc, theme development, repetition and plot holes. Even before having the manuscript edited, I’d tried to address some issues that had been raised with regard to my previous books: Make the main character more likable. Give the reader a happier ending. Explain what motivates an action so that the reader isn’t blindsided by the reaction.
That would, no doubt, make the book more popular, accessible en masse.
From the beginning, I knew that this book wasn’t going to fit snugly in any one genre, and that that might make it harder to market. The word on the street was that it needed a near-total rewrite, or it risked only receiving 1-star reviews. And there is room for improvement. My editor offered many great insights that will help make the story better.
Strangely, this time around his questions and comments had me wondering if making something ‘popular’ meant ‘dumbing-it-down’ to the level of a ten-year-old. I believe readers are smarter than that and deserve better. Or am I wrong?
Worse still, it felt like I was moving in the opposite direction of my dream instead of closer to it. The terrifying part? I wasn’t sure who’s story I’d be writing anymore — mine or someone else’s.
All I know at this point is that I must trust my art.
I let myself wallow in self-pity for about a day, tempted to ditch it all — not just the book, but writing. All because a familiar question, when doubt reared its ugly head, poked at me: what’s the point?
I’d forgotten my why. Writing is why I’m here on earth, my purpose. And I’m doing it — challenging norms and breaking the rules — to, I hope, change the world, make it a better place … be a beacon of hope. That is my why to life, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
We know that in this life, not everyone is going to like what we create and share with the world. But when you know your why — and are living it — it’s time to stop giving a f*ck about what other people think. Living your why, you’re not compromising your truth or your character. You’re being who you are. Stand up and take a bow.
This is your life, your mission.
Embrace it and your why.
Then roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Are you living your why? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you!
When I sit down at my desk in the morning, night is still fully in place. My companions are the muffled sounds of cars speeding down the Gardiner Expressway, the tick tock of the living room clock, and my partner’s snoring seeping through the walls. It is — living in a busy downtown Toronto neighbourhood — by all accounts … quiet. It’s the time of day I am most focused, when I can hear myself think.
I wrote this blog post last November. Then, the weather changed on a dime. Strong, 100km winds one day, then rain, and then the potential for snow. We feared winter’s ugly wrath, and that there was no way to sidestep it. All we could do was suck it up. And as Canadians, the plan executed flawlessly — was to spend the next few months complaining about how cold it was, how miserable it was outside, and how we couldn’t wait for spring.
Now, it’s April. The snow is (mostly) gone. It’s warmer (I’m running in shorts). The days are longer. And we’re still complaining about the weather!
And like we can’t sidestep winter or the early April snowfalls, sometimes you can’t sidestep doubt.
Don’t Open that Door
I write frequently about doubt. Why? Because it’s a constant companion on my creative journey, especially when I’m nearing the end of a project, taking on something that’s outside of my comfort zone, or anticipating my editor’s critique of my manuscript. The biggest challenge sometimes is to not open the door to doubt.
There are times when it’s too tempting to let doubt in, and if we do it can throw us off course. Instead, maybe we need a little pep talk, and here’s what we could tell ourselves…
Dare to dream. Dare to imagine that we live in a world where we can — without the judgment of others, without asking for outside approval — be ourselves. It’s a world where we can follow our heart’s true desire. It’s a world where we can freely do what it is that we want to do and what we feel called to do. It is a world of hope and possibility.
What I Say to Myself
I am a writer. I say that with conviction. It is, today, an affirmation of who I am. I am a writer. Not because of my novels or other published works. I am a writer because there is, deep within me, a will far greater than my own that compels me to write. It is a calling. I have chosen to heed the call.
My day is not complete if I have not put in time at the page. It reminds me of the days when I went without having a coffee. I was cranky. (I don’t drink coffee now, so if I’m cranky it’s for an entirely other reason). When I do not write, or when I don’t write enough, I’m irksome and irritable. In a way, I lose my humanity. That’s why each day I show up at the page. If I don’t, I risk losing myself. Writing grounds me in the day, helps me to be present in the now. Writing, I hang on to myself.
Weather the Storm
Stay focused on the work before you. Perhaps doubt is trying to tell you that the road ahead is somewhat uncertain. Even so, you can’t let doubt have dominion here. All you can do is show up, begin where you are, and the rest will follow.
What challenges do you face daily in your creative pursuits? Are you weathering the storm? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.
We live in crazy times. Not necessarily crazy, but so much different from when I was a child. Technology has changed how we live and work. Politics are more divisive, and ugly, than I can remember. It’s a me-first world, and trying to keep up can leave you exhausted. And through it all, we’re trying to follow our own path, do what we love … be a beacon of hope in a world seemingly turning in on itself. To do that, to forge ahead, it’s important to bring balance to our daily lives.
Where We Were
When I think of my childhood, I think of simpler times. I was born in 1973. Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Prime Minister. Richard Nixon was President of the United States. Construction of the CN Tower began on February 6 of that same year. I grew up with the Atari game consoles, Commodore 64 and Vic-20. As a child, playing for me meant swimming in our pool, playing a game of Hide and Seek, Tag or Red Rover, building forts in the woods or going for long bike rides. During the summer, my parents took us camping, or on day trips to see relatives living in other parts of the province. In July, we always picked strawberries followed by a picnic lunch. In the fall, we picked apples.
Where We Are Now
Life is crazy. We know we’re on this planet for a limited time, and many of us have big dreams. To become the Surgeon-in-Chief at Mount Sinai. A bestselling author. A successful entrepreneur. And we’re trying to achieve our goals while balancing work, family and other life issues. Before we realize it, we’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of life — trying just to keep up, and unable to resist the temptation to rush, rush, rush.
Add to that technology. Not just how it’s made our lives easier — online shopping and banking, high speed internet, self-parking cars — but also how it’s placed a, let’s use the word ‘burden,’ on us. Social media. We’re trying to study for the MCAT, get the kids out to hockey practice, or finish the edits to the final chapter of the novel it took two years to write. We’re already struggling to juggle work and home, yet it’s now expected to maintain accounts on several social media platforms if we wish to be successful. As if we’re not busy enough!
The question I keep asking myself is this: how do we find balance?
The Struggle Within
As a writer with a day job, balance doesn’t come easily. On my days off, I’m working hard on writing projects, building my platform and engaging with my audience. And I’m also investing time in other interests, like running, reading and cooking. It becomes almost impossible not to rush, rush, rush. I’m trying to make every minute off the day count. Is it a surprise that I often feel exhausted and overwhelmed? Not really.
I often equate (erroneously) increased productivity with success without really taking the time to see if I’m focused on what matters most. Yet it’s hard for my mind to compute that there are trade-offs, and time dedicated to one project/activity cannot be used for another. If I’m going to three hours on social media (I’m not on a social media diet), I have to realize — and accept — that maybe it’s going to take longer to write the first draft of a novel or complete the rewrite of a manuscript. It’s been that lack of understanding, ignorance even, about the importance and necessity of trade-offs that’s made me feel overwhelmed, like I’m stalled. Oliver Burkeman says it nicely: “[…] we make enormous efforts to ignore the reality of trade-offs — and, as a consequence, deny ourselves the best chance of a maximally fulfilling creative career.”1
How Do We Find Balance?
We find balance by taking an inventory of our life. How are we spending our time? Are we focused on what’s important to us? And are we making time for the things, and people, we love? Finding balance isn’t going to happen overnight. It may take several attempts to get it right. In six months’ time, we might have to again reassess if we’re focused on the right things and make more changes. And remember … balance will mean different things to different people.
Over the years, this is what I’ve learned: when we find the balance that we need, there’s a natural ebb and flow to life. Everything comes together, and joy blossoms in our hearts. It gives us the strength and determination, if only for today, to keep on keeping on.
Have you found balance in your life? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.